Trying to figure out the best places to visit in Sri Lanka? From epic beaches to vast tea plantations and stunning temples – here are 11 you cant miss out!
Trying to figure out the best places to visit in Sri Lanka for your next trip?
I’m not surprised – this awesome country has so many epic spots to explore!
From sprawling beaches lined with palm trees to vast tea plantations in the hill country and awe inspiring rock fortresses – Sri Lanka has something for everyone.
So if you’re looking to hit up some of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka here are 11 epic spots to explore…
11 Unmissable Places To Visit In Sri Lanka
Situated on the South West Coast of Sri Lanka, just 2.5 hours from the airport, Ahangama is one of the most up and coming surf towns on this stretch of coastline.
From October to April the waves here are consistent and super fun – ideal for beginner and intermediate surfers.
With a range of surf camps (check out my Sri Lanka surf camp guide here) to choose from there’s something for every budget and an equal variety of waves on offer too.
From the mellow long boarder favourite of Marshmallows to more punchy breaks like Rams and Lazy Lefts for more experienced surfers, there’s waves for everyone!
When you’re not hitting the surf check out the iconic stilt fisherman (epic for photos at sunset), chill on the beaches or explore some of the nearby tea plantations.
Top 4 places to stay in Ahangama
- Ticket To Ride Surf House. From US$82/night
- Sea Close Inn. From US$40/night
- Dreamsea Sri Lanka. From US$105/night
- Southern Beach Surf Lodge. From US$10/night
Click here for my full Sri Lanka Surf Guide
Another surfer favourite, Arugam Bay is THE place to be during May to October, when the South West Coast is in monsoon season.
Arugam Bay on the other hand is prime time weather wise and as with the West Coast summertime is also peak surf season too!
For those wanting to chill out on the beach the laid back vibes of Arugam Bay are ideal, whilst surfers from around the world will be stoked on the epic point breaks that put this slice of Sri Lanka on the map – and it still hosts and array of national and international surf competitions.
Top 4 places to stay in Arugam Bay
- Stay Golden. From US$40/night
- Blue Waters. From US$68/night
- Babar Point. From US$69/night
- Conch Bay. From US$9/night
A stunning destination renowned for its lush jungle, colourful towns and scenic hiking trails, Ella is one of Sri Lanka’s most visited regions. There’s a lot to love about this Sri Lankan hotspot.
From the majestic Ella Rock and some of the most famous waterfalls in Sri Lanka, to the famous Nine Arch Bridge, many of Sri Lanka’s top attractions can be found right here.
Located in the southern region of Sri Lanka, just over 2 hours from the airport, Ella is a laidback and charming village home to one of the most breathtaking train rides in the world, aka: the Kandy to Ella train.
This scenic journey takes you through verdant forests, spectacular tea plantations, cascading waterfalls and through rustic communities.
Top 4 places to stay in Ella
- Ella Nature View. From US$31/night
- Ella Flower Garden Resort. From US$38/night
- Ekho Ella. From US$162/night
- Ella Planters Bungalow and Restaurant US$107
Boasting stunning scenery and a UNESCO World Heritage status, Sigiriya has a lot to brag about. In particular, the iconic Lion Rock is one of the Sri Lanka’s most incredible natural landmarks.
Towering 200 metres above the ground, Lion Rock is a rock fortress that dates back to the 5th Century AD and is embellished with remains from medieval Sri Lanka’s royal palace.
Today, Lion Rock is an attraction frequently visited by tourists from across the world and is easily one of the most famous places to visit in Sri Lanka.
You can hike up this spectacular fortress to be rewarded with some amazing views of the surrounding plains.
The climb to the top will take approximately 30 minutes to an hour to reach the top, and the views are SO worth it.
We recommend hiking in the early morning or late afternoon to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and be sure to pack plenty of water for your journey.
Click here for my full guide to Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Top 4 places to stay in Sigiriya
- Royal Rock Hotel US$35/night
- Sigiriya Village US$45/night
- Hotel Sigiriya US$76/night
- Heritance Kandalama US$173/night
Udawalawe National Park
On top of the beautiful beaches, rich culture and lush landscapes, Sri Lanka is abound with an incredible array of wildlife.
Located 165 kilometres from Colombo, Udawalawe National Park is an absolute must-visit on your next Sri Lankan adventure. Covering 31,000 hectares of land, the national park is a sanctuary for over 5000 elephants, monkeys, leopards, buffalo and hundreds of bird species.
Experience the captivating Sri Lankan wildlife for yourself on a safari journey to the Udawalawe National Park. Safaris can last anywhere from 3 to 7 hours, depending on how much wildlife you want to see.
And, you can even combine your safari with a glamping experience that includes your accommodation, meals and beverages, national park passes and more.
Top 4 places to stay in Udawalawe National Park
- Hasthi Safari Cottage US$16/night
- Kottawatta Village US$33/night
- Jungle Paradise US$64/night
- Kalu’s Hideaway Udawalawe US$95/night
Located 3 hours from Colombo, Kandy is the second-largest city of Sri Lanka best known for its history and culture. Together with its variety of authentic restaurants, Kandy is a great place to experience local life at its best.
The perfect destination for cultural enthusiasts, Kandy’s top attractions include the beautiful colonial buildings and religious sites.
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is one of the most sacred sites in all of Sri Lanka. Said to house a portion of Buddha’s tooth, the temple is Buddhism’s most significant religious shrine.
Kandy’s rolling mountain ranges and tea plantations are another major drawcard for tourists. And while rain is frequent in this area, it’s beautiful whatever the weather.
Top 4 places to stay in Kandy
- Sevana City Hotel US$33/night
- Skyloft Kandy US$39/night
- Earl’s Regency Hotel US$84/night
- Hotel Topaz US$87/night
Located on the southwestern tip of Sri Lanka, 119 km from Colombo, Galle is a major city with so much to see and do. Here, you can discover Sri Lanka’s best-preserved Dutch colonial townscape (better known as the Galle Fort), as well as historical museums and imposing churches.
This time warped destination has gained UNESCO World Heritage Status and is one of the top attractions in the entire country.
Just a short distance from Galle Fort, the Unawatuna beach is where you will find palm fringed shores and sparkling turquoise waters. This picture-perfect setting is renowned for its incredible surf, snorkelling and whale watching.
Not to mention the iconic sunsets, Unawatuna beach is one of the best places to watch the sky turn pink, orange and purple before setting beyond the horizon.
Foodies will love Galle’s abundance of fresh seafood, in particular yellowfin Tuna and calamari. You can sample this local speciality at many of Galle’s fantastic restaurants, or at the popular Galle Fort Markets.
Held every Sunday, the markets boast a wonderful range of food stalls and pop up cafes as well as live music and entertainment.
Top 4 places to stay in Galle
- Bara Beach Home US$16/night
- Fairway Sunset Galle US$44/night
- Fort Square Boutique Villa US$85/night
- The Bungalow – Galle Fort US$105/night
With its pristine beaches, sparkling blue waters and fantastic restaurants, it’s no surprise why Mirissa is one of Sri Lanka’s most visited destinations.
Together with the relaxed coastal ambiance and stunning scenery, Mirissa is the perfect destination for tropical relaxation.
Located on the south coast of Sri Lanka, 150 km from the airport, Mirissa is ideal for surfers and beach goers. From October through March, Mirissa enjoys fantastic surf conditions that are ideal for a wide variety of surfing experience, including those wanting to learn to surf.
Mirissa is also famed for another of Sri Lanka wildlife encounters – the Blue Whale.
Yup you can head out on a whale watching trip or even a whale watching flight for your chance to see the biggest creature on the planet. And if you dont manage to catch a glimpse of the Blue Whales there are plenty of Pilot Whales and Dolphins who will put on a show!
Top 4 places to stay in Mirissa
- Fresh Wave Mirissa – Beach Front US$33/night
- Satori Beach Hostel US$35/night
- Triple O Six US$96/night
- Paradise Beach Club US$110/night
Yala National Park
Holding the title as Sri Lanka’s best national park, Yala National Park is like the real-life Jungle Book.
From elephants and monkeys to buffaloes and crocodiles, Yala National Park is bursting with wildlife, you’re almost 100% guaranteed to spot wildlife on your safari journey.
So, if you’re looking to get up close and personal with some of the most fascinating creatures on earth. Yala National Park is one of the places to visit in Sri Lanka you can’t miss out on.
Covering an area of 1268 sq km, this vast landscape is home to grassy plains, scrub forest and saltwater lagoons. While large in size, this national park is extremely popular and attracts thousands of visitors each day, so be sure to plan your trip accordingly.
Top 4 places to stay in/around Yala National Park
- Gaga Bees Yala US$40/night
- Jetwing Yala US$187/night
- Mahoora Tented Safari Camp (All Inclusive) US$387
- Leopard Nest – Glamping in Yala US$405/night
Situated approximately 70 km from Kandy, Dambulla is a historical destination perfect for cultural explorers. For travellers obsessed with architecture and history, this is the destination for you!
While the Dambulla town is modest in size, its main attractions showcase some serious wow factor. In particular, the incredible cave temple is one of Sri Lanka’s best landmarks.
Here, you can spend hours upon hours exploring the majestic caves to discover over 150 Buddha statues, ancient artefacts, paintings and murals made over 2000 years ago.
From the cave temple, you can also take in the spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and Sirigiriya in the distance.
Top 4 places to stay in Dambulla
- L’s Lanka US$47/night
- Freedom Village US$50/night
- Sundaras Resort & Spa US$52/night
- Sigiriana Resort by Thilanka US$60
A magnificent mountain in the central highland region of Sri Lanka, Adam’s Peak is an undeniable natural wonder. Rising 2,243m from the earth, Adam’s peak is one of Sri Lanka’s most celebrated places of pilgrimage.
Said to house the footprint of Buddha, the summit is an incredibly sacred place for many Sri Lankans.
Traditionally, the hike to Adam’s peak begins at dark, approximately 2am allowing you to reach the top in time for sunrise. However, you can hike to the top of the peak at any time.
The challenging, yet rewarding hike takes you up 5500 stairs that wind through 7km of dense bushland. At the top of Adam’s peak hikers will be rewarded with ancient artefacts and incredible views over the surrounding landscapes.
Top 4 places to stay in Adam’s Peak
- Wathsala Inn US$19/night
- Tea Breeze Motel US$25/night
- Adam’s Peak Inn US$23/night
- Delhousie Hotel Galle US$25/night
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